OK, but is it Prog?
Jerry Lucky Commentary November 2010
Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2010 All Rights Reserved
When youíve been around progressive rock as long as I have, itís hard not to become a little wary of the state of the genre
as described by various media. Everyone seems to have their own agenda and as a result things may not always be what they seem.
Those are just a few of the thoughts I had while listening to a recent sampler disc from the British magazine; Classic Rock Presents PROG. The disc was entitled ďThe New Breed of Prog.Ē Now as I say, Iíve been around the block a few times, so I just canít help it if my spidey sense started to tingle just a little bit over the use of the term ďnew Breed.Ē Now itís certainly important to keep an open mind or in this case and open ear, because you never know what treasures may be lurking just around the next CD. Weíve made those discoveries, right?
I remember back in the eighties while trying to find stuff to play in my prog radio show, I was pretty willing to stretch the genre definition more than a little bit because there was so little Ďrealí progressive rock available. I wound up including some bands or some music that for all intents and purposes was pretty mainstream, but perhaps had just a hint more musicianship or unorthodox instrumentation and that was just me being perhaps a little bit desperate. So I know first hand the trap that sits awaiting those who explore the world of new music. We all want our personal discoveries to be included.
Now, a couple decades on, the broad rock genre has incorporated plenty of additional influences including the prog of old, so it should not be surprising that some bands today are creating some really exciting stuff. But the question remains this: is it prog? Or is it something else and I donít mean eclectic or cross-over prog, I mean something else entirely. I suppose some of it might fit neatly into the Art Rock category as I still see a clear demarcation between that and progressive rock.
Let me say right off the top, I like a lot of these new bands and the music they create. I love the fact theyíve taken a shine to the prog genre and seen fit to incorporate elements of it into their own music. But I wonder if we arenít making a bit of a leap to call it progressive rock, when maybe it really is something else.
There is that classic example of Radiohead, whoíve maintained theyíre not a prog band. Saying that even after the release of OK Computer. Iím not sure how many other bands would make the same denial. After all in virtually all music circles, except perhaps Rolling Stone, Prog is no longer a dirty word. But while that may be true, and Iím glad it is, if one were to ask some of the ďnew breed of progĒ bands, did they consider themselves prog, I wonder how many would say yes.
The old adage; ďIf it walks like a duck and it sounds like a duck, it probably is a duckĒ certainly comes into play here. And as I sit listening to the new album from the Canadian band Mystery entitled One Among the Living there is no question of itís prog credentials. The same could easily be said about the new Spockís Beard. There are some things that need no further evidence. But, and this is a subjective but, what about some of these newer bands? Now Iím not sure I want to name names but Iím referring to bands that sound different but maybe donít demonstrate the same ability or perhaps desire to make music that is remotely complex. Should a band that simply sounds different that what you hear on radio mainstream be considered a prog band? I donít know? Iím as guilty as the next person at having done that, but itís something Iím questioning myself on. Maybe I was too quick to call something a duck when maybe it wasnít quite a duck. You know what I mean?
None of this takes away from some great music thatís being created out there these days. I guess Iím just putting out a word of caution, that before we jump the gun and start looking for the tiniest bit of sonic evidence to lump everything into the prog genre, why not take a deep breath, and enjoy the music even if itís not really prog. Not everything we like has to fall into the same genre; a little variety never hurt anyone. At least thatís what I think.